I have been reading a fascinating book written by Jesuit priest Fr. Walter Ciszek – He Leadeth Me. Fr. Ciszek was a missionary in Russia during WWII. He was arrested in 1941 by the Russian Army – accused of being a Vatican spy – and spent the next 20+ years in prison … many of those years in Siberia. During his imprisonment, Fr. Ciszek underwent lengthy interrogations – most lasting for a solid 24 hours straight… It was a tactic used by the army to get a prisoner to confess just out of sheer exhaustion. For Fr. Ciszek, it was this very Gospel that came to mind during these moments … begging the Lord to give him strength, the right words to persuade his captors to realize that he was a “nobody” and release him. The more he resisted, the worse the interrogations… Having felt like the Lord failed him – he eventually caved. And then the shame and guilt flooded every fiber of his being… He wrote (page 71, last paragraph).
It is no secret about what to expect as a member of the Catholic Faith – as a disciple of Jesus Christ… Jesus tells us plainly – you will face difficulty, you will be mocked and ridiculed… you may even face death … but do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Jesus is not beating around the bush here – yet He promises His presence, He promises His strength … He does not offer an easy way but rather a way for heroes… Champions of faith…
Friends… this is what the world needs now… Heroes … Champions of faith … those who stand firm in the truth – the truth regarding moral integrity and human dignity … we must not be swayed by the false ideologies of the world … Jesus believes in us and trust us enough with His message to offer us a way to be heroes. I think that so often we get caught up in the secular world, in those worldly ideologies that seem to be based in goodness because, I think, it makes it seem like something we can accomplish on our own… It is as if we are saying – we don’t need God, we can handle this ourselves – think about it in this perspective …. What are the tag lines of today’s culture? “live your truth?” ; “you only live once”; “do what feels good” – these are not the attitudes of heroes … heroes are brave, possess qualities of a noble character … heroes do not live solely for themselves… You see, this is what Fr. Ciszek realized, why he felt like God failed him was because he came to the realization that he was living for himself.
It seems to me that if I were to sum up the gospel and my comments on it this morning … I’d day it comes down to this – who are we living for? Have we been brave enough to remain steadfast in truth and goodness? Have we upheld the truth of moral integrity and human dignity? … Because in the end, when our lives on this earth are complete – go out like a champion… don’t be afraid to be a hero.